Tag Archives: stoner

20 years of WELCOME TO SKY VALLEY

sky valley

Last Saturday I was reminded of the 20th anniversary of Welcome to Sky Valley, the third album of the Palm Desert band Kyuss, and this time it’s made me give it a lot of thought, and listen to it again. I’m not one of those who worships this band as if there isn’t anything better in the world and I’m not looking forward to witnessing a reunion between John Garcia and Josh Homme because I don’t regard it necessary. I don’t criticize Homme for forming QOTSA working hard to rise to stardom, but I do get upset with Garcia for not managing to keep a single project steady for long time. There was a time and a place for Kyuss, and for that reason this band probably achieved the status of underground legend, and if its members decided to split ways, I’m sure there was a good reason for that, so there’s no point in insisting on a reunion. Believe me, I learnt the lesson with GN’R some time ago.

I love Kyuss records though I hate the diehard fans of the band, no offence. In my PERSONAL opinion, they are often too narrow minded musically speaking.

I’d say Welcome to Sky Valley is not my favorite album of the band, however every time I recover it and listen to ‘Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop’, ‘Whitewater’ and ‘Demon Cleaner’  I must surrender and admit it’s a masterpiece. Thinking of the first time I approached it and Blues for the Red Sun in cassette, I reckon the experience was totally mindblowing. Kyuss opened the gates to another musical dimension for me, and I learnt to listen to music in a different way, tasting and enjoying the different instruments, both separately and together, feeling the different vibes and atmospheres created thanks to the changes in rhythm, the guitar effects, and the distortions, and I also discovered my favorite instrument was drums. Kyuss could make me travel in my mind (no acid involved), and I think it didn’t happen again until I discovered Monster Magnet’s Dopes to Infinity.

Moreover, it was the first band that I reckon I felt passionate for which wasn’t mainstream, highlighting the fact that in that day even Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam were popular on a global scale, broadcast on MTV and any radio station. In the past it was more difficult to get acquainted with cult bands, due to the complexity of spreading the word, and getting to discover overseas bands in first place, mainly caused by a period of isolation our country was forced to go through for too many years. Also the fact that not many people around shared the same interest in music as me made things a bit worse. Whatever, the point I really intend to make here is that Kyuss was an unknown band for the majority of people here. I was introduced to the band through my friend Pablo, and he heard of, or better said, read about the band on a magazine, so we didn’t know the actual impact and popularity of the band in the States and abroad. As far as we were concerned they were some sort of gurus, with all the Palm Desert scene, playing in the middle of nowhere, just surrounded by cacti, and enlightened by the creative and magical power of weed…or something like that.

I think the cult towards this band had to do with this mysterious halo they were involved, at least we perceived it as such, and the evocative music combined with wonderful hard guitar riffs.

scott reeder

I was talking about Welcome to Sky Valley, huh? Getting back to it, there’s one more thing. I’d like to give the credit to one of the most remarkable bass players in rock/metal scene, Scott Reeder, who joined Kyuss at this point, but I think he earned by far enough credit to be recognized  as THE bass player in the band. His style, his rough way to play, and his attitude just made it. We always focus on the roles of John Garcia and Josh Homme, comparing them to another rock couples such as Plant and Page, Slash and Axl, or Tyler and Perry, as they’re more remarkable and easy to identify and analyze, and after all, their current bad relationship with suing involved makes us all wonder what happened between them, forgetting the rest of the members in the band and their contributions. I couldn’t affirm which is the main Kyuss drummer though, Bjork or Hernandez, no matter their influence on other musicians after their contribution to the band, however, regardless the fact that Nick Oliveri was there first on the 4 strings, Reeder won his place in rock history.

 

GARCIA: WHAT HAPPENED?

No doubt John Garcia has one of the most powerful and unique voices in stoner-metal rock. His role as the lead singer and frontman of Kyuss created a pattern and meant a huge influence for many bands and musicians. The legacy left by this band is outstanding and meant the foundings of the style.

kyuss band

Unfortunately at some point, like many bands, members decided to split ways, being Josh Homme the most successful thanks to Queens of the Stone Age, a project whose first album saw the light back in 1998 and has been following a rising career up to the stardom. John Garcia though, throughout these years, has been trying luck with different projects, which were never steady nor constant, and characterized by remaining in a more underground (almost nonexistent) scene.

Many people sure think it’s not fair to compare both artists, but as a fan, in an attempt to understand what’s going on with Garcia, it’s difficult not to do so.

Back in the day, Garcia released with Slo Burn one of the most epic ep’s I can remember, Amusing the Amazing. 4 songs of pure energy and rage, proving there was life after Kyuss, and creating great expectations among fans, who were delighted. Slo Burn kept part of the desert essence of Kyuss, but at the same time it was more metal, and very straight to the face. I missed their last show in London for 2-3 weeks, a pity. I’m sure probably I’d be adding it to my fave shows, but fate didn’t want to favor me this time.

Once the project was over, Garcia set up another band he led named Unida. They only released an album, Coping with the Urban Coyote, which was also terrific. I remember back in Spain, when internet was a modem (not modern)  luxury and downloading a song used to take ages, there was a second album rumored which never saw the light, and there were leaked songs circulating, which were pretty good, actually. I never understood what happened. Again, the project didn’t manage to stand for itself, and the band disintegrated.

At the same time, Homme, who had been collaborating with Mark Lanegan among others, finally created QOTSA, a band which has been rising step by step, with no major quality failures except for the weird Era Vulgaris, but lots of changes in the lineup, which didn’t affect the evolution of Homme, who was and still is in control of everything.

Garcia came up to the ring with Hermano, band which released three albums. Only a Suggestion, the debut, was pretty cool, the second, Dare I Say, is expendable and not quite remarkable, and the third, Into the Exam Room wasn’t that bad. And then again, the union failed. Hermano hasn’t officially split, but hiatus has lasted for long time.

garcia

In the last years Garcia has been attempting to try luck by resurrecting his old projects, including Kyuss, under the name of Kyuss Lives, with Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork, which was followed by a lawsuit from Homme and Scott Reeder, for bad use of the trademark. I saw them a couple of times at two festivals, and it was a good exercise of nostalgia, obviously, and the band was tight and solid, but…you know, that wasn’t Kyuss. After this trouble, Vista Chino rose from the ashes of Kyuss Lives as a trio, but frankly speaking, the work sounds repetitive and monotonous, and eventually I’ve finally lost my interest completely.

Last week Unida were confirmed as part of the lineup of a Spanish festival and I just couldn’t believe it. Unida again? WTF? John, man, what the hell is going on?

Trying to be as much respectful as possible, these continuous attempts to succeed through the reunion nostalgic effect are, in my opinion, a way to creep after your legacy in a classless way, and I find this whole decline a bit pathetic. I don’t care whether it’s for the money or the success, I thought Garcia was really taking care of his business, trying to go on with his style avoiding becoming mainstream, but now, I only see a caricature of the powerful leader he used to be, and that makes me really really sad.

John, man, what happened?

* Currently listening to Coping with the Human Coyote

TORCHE, I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE!

There’s no better way to start a placebo 7 day holiday break as with a powerful show, don’t you think? This is one of the reasons I love summer. Every weekend there’s some cool event, and at least during the first half of July it’s usually music related.

Last Saturday it was time for Torche. I had been recommended by several friends, had read many positive reviews and had recently listened to their last album Harmonicraft, with a positive feeling about them and thinking that a live performance could be a good one. the attendance confirmation by several friends made me finally decide to join them, and luck was on my side, as thanks to my dear Rockzone magazine friends, I eventually got a freebie. The night was promising.

Torche 048 small

Salamandra, the venue the show was scheduled at, is a good one, sound quality is more than acceptable and is very comfortable for the audience, but since its capacity is for approx 800 people and I reckon we weren’t even 100, the feeling was that it was too empty, and it contributed to the shyness of people, who weren’t approaching much to the stage.

I had been explained by the promoter that Torche’s sets usually last about 45 minutes, which is quite poor for a headlining band, so they were requested to extend to minimum 65 minutes, and they stuck to this minimum timing. Their show was pretty intense and powerful, barely interacting with the audience, except for Andrew Elstner, who had this permanent smile. The band focused on their new album, more accessible and let’s say “friendlier” than their previous ones, and very energetic, with Kicking, Reverse Inverted, Snakes Are Charmed or Letting Go, although they had the chance to include songs from their older stuff such as Grenades or Healer. I personally enjoyed more the most dynamic parts in the show rather than the heavier.

Sound was pretty impressive, guitars were perfect, bass presence was strong musically and physically, as Jonathan Nuñez didn’t stop for a second, and voice was quite decent too, but again it happened, I loved the drummer right away.  Powerful riffs and machine drummers are the key for this sludge/stoner style, and this guy, Rick Smith was excellent.

Nothing to complain about except  for the short length of the show. A couple of songs would have improved the final result in great deal, but still, it was a fine one, and the added value was that the band came out to have a beer with us and we got the chance to exchange impressions. Very nice guys, split in Atlanta and Miami and combining the band with standard jobs as they cannot afford living of this yet. What a pity, but seeing the lack of attendants at the show in Barcelona, it’s understandable. Very humble, hardworking and quite pro, yet another underrated band which delivers awesome albums, but is barely known by anyone who is not into the style.

Torche 035 small

The sentence of the night was said by a glorious San Francisco girl I meet in the show named Melissa, when trying to convince the band to have some drinks with us after words, started to ring a bell at the venue saying “Torche, I know you’re in there” very insistent. The guys had quickly left the building as they had to catch a flight to Italy at 5 AM on Sunday. What a great laugh!

I’m quite pleased with this personal revival of stoner music I’m going through lately, discovering a bunch of very interesting bands, and enjoying brilliant live performances. From time to time I seek for pure energy in music.. Now I got it with bands like Torche, Clutch or The Sword. Great scene, good bands, great live performances…Good times!

ALBUM OF WEEK 7: STRANGE COUSINS FROM THE WEST

strange cousins from the west

Clutch have been there all the time and I never paid any attention. In fact when I was aware hewhocannotbenamed is a huge fan, I tried to avoid them on purpose, so I wouldn’t have another thing in common. However, eventually I had to leave my prejudice aside because I know some people whose musical taste I trust, and they reckon Clutch is one of the hottest rock metal bands.

Would that be the appropriate label to define them? Not very sure, even though it’s true they combine lots of metal, rock and stoner features to create their own sound.

Clutch aren’t new, their career has been constant and stable for more than 20 years delivering both studio and live albums and some Eps. Now it’s time I dive into them and see if the guys from Germantown are as good as everybody says. At this point, I’ve listened to several of their and the outcome is very positive. Not just positive, actually I can’t stop listening to them. Moreover, I’ve already pre-ordered their last release due March 19th, Earth Rocker. I’ve listened to the same titled single and wow! It’s a very appealing teaser of what’s coming. Can’t wait! It’s got an added interest as it will be their first release I’ll be able to share with other fans, you know, first impressions in forums, all this excitement of something knew coming out, and the band visiting Spain in June….Perfect timing to become a fan!

clutch

I’ve been listening to Strange Cousins from the West these past weeks nonstop. It’s got the groove. Rhythm is so perfectly marked by drums and riffs, songs end up being very catchy. Pattern is easy listening and production is so neat you can identify all parts and instruments very easily.

Fallon’s voice is strong and powerful, very attractive. It makes me think of Corrosion of Conformity’s former lead singer Pepper Keenan, even though Clutch’s is more melodic. By the way, I love this song in Spanish “Algo ha cambiado”. It’s way too cool!

Nevertheless, who’s caught my attention in first place is the drummer. Jean-Paul Gaster. Most of you know I dig drums, and once I’ve listened to the whole stuff I go on focusing on each part of the band. In Clutch’s case it’s true they way this album is produced is very easy to analyze the work of the different members of the band and their instruments. And damn, they’re all amazing. But it’s the drummer who marks the outstanding difference from the rest. This guy is awesome. I hadn’t listened to such great quality drummer in very long time, his technique is amazing, and his style is impressive. A great beat marker, not abusing of cymbals, the typical drummer you don’t notice until you start paying attention and you end up flipping for so many tiny arrangements he’s constantly adding. One of these natural born drummers.

After so many albums Clutch have their own sound and their own quality stamp, however I can’t stop thinking of earlier Monster Magnet, being Clutch less progressive and trippy and more straightforward, but having something special in common.

I’m glad about still discovering bands with such energy and rage able to hook me up in the same way as 15 years ago. Now I wonder what if I had discovered Cluth in the 1990’s..Insane!

Hopefully at the end of March Earth Rocker will be commented here. Stay tuned!

A VERY MUSICAL WEEKEND

This has been a very musical weekend. I’ve gone to a couple of gigs, completely different one from each other, but enjoyable the same.

Unfortunately I cannot afford to assist to all the gigs I’d love to, thus I have to be a bit selective. There are many gigs confirmed for this Spring-Summer, and surely I’ll have to forget about some of them. Better not to think of it now.

Anyway, sometimes I’m amazed of myself for being so eclectic. Yesterday I was headbanging listening to heavy riffing stuff, and tonight I was dancing soul.

Yesterday the band headlining was called Moho. I would define them just as a doom stoner band, but apparently there’s a label more accurate to define their style: SLUDGE. I’m not very good at labeling and prefer easy tags for bands, and as I haven’t been much into this style for long time seems I’m a bit old fashioned. I’d say I’m more old school.

Moho, offered an amazing show. I was quite surprised for their quality and their themes, considering they’re from Madrid, they don’t seem “national” product. I respect them for that, apart from the fact that they’re really good musicians, the drummer was outstanding.

Cannot name any single title, I have no idea. I’m not very good at reviewing gigs either, because I never remember set lists or titles of the songs, unless the band I’m seeing drives me crazy. What I can say is that not only me, but also the rest of the audience were enjoying the show a lot, and nobody came back home disappointed. Hope to see them soon again, Moho rules!

And tonight we’ve changed of story completely, and it’s been awesome! Thanks to the music magazine Ruta 66, we’ve witnessed two hot performances by two established and experienced soul brothers.

Opening the show Charles Bradley has warmed the venue with great tunes, showing his dancing skills, no matter he’s an aged man. A cover of Neil Young’s Heart of Gold has been overwhelming. After half an hour (sharp), we very pleased and surprised at the same time, but the best was yet to come.

Mr. Lee Fields showed on stage showing such charisma and attitude, we were completely delighted. Set list was  outstanding and songs such as Ladies, Money is King or Honey Dove made people crazy, everybody was dancing, raising arms and singing back.  Terrific!

The singers shared the same band, and wow! They were amazing and the bass player was non of this world.

The stoner show, with 3 bands, lasted  about 3 hours, however this soul show has barely reached one hour and a half, still, in order not to lose the rhythm, there was no pause between each artist, with the band playing constantly. I’ve loved it!

And here I am, about to go to sleep, tired but very happy for attending both shows, and glad my best friend, trusting my enthusiasm for Lee Fields, has enjoyed so much. Hope there are more weekends alike, it’s been really cool.